Colombo: international plan launched against food insecurity
by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The majority of the population no longer has access to three meals a day due to a lack of food. The Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund are considering various financial assistance programmes. Female employment drops by 47% in the tourism sector.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Several economic programmes will soon be implemented in Sri Lanka to tackle the growing food insecurity of the population. In recent days, the US Treasury Department and the Sri Lankan government have launched a joint action plan, which will be joined by interventions by international credit institutions.

The majority of the population can no longer eat three balanced meals a day due to the rising prices of basic necessities. The causes are to be found in Sri Lanka's worst economic crisis since independence, aggravated by a disastrous switch to organic farming imposed last year by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The joint action plan (International Financial Institution Action Plan to Address Food Insecurity) calls for a review of commitments made so far with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to the value of USD 150 million. The assistance "may include the transfer of money to needy and vulnerable groups and livelihood development programmes", in addition to food.

In conjunction with this plan, at the proposal of Svenja Schulze, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, the G7 Development Ministers launched a Global Alliance for Food Security with the aim of solving the 'hunger crisis'. The world's seven largest economies have also agreed to provide financial assistance to Colombo through a sovereign debt restructuring programme, known as the Autonomous Loan Reunion Programme.

The ADB is also exploring different financing options and loans to the private sector to facilitate food imports, in collaboration with the FAO and the World Food Programme: while the ADB's financing guarantees will facilitate imports of essential goods, trade and supply chain financing programmes will provide guarantees to banks for trade in agricultural and food products.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development, active in rural areas since 1978, with its involvement in the Kirindi Oya project (a programme for the development of unused land in the arid zone of Sri Lanka) will also provide short-term assistance.

Similarly, the World Bank is considering projects worth USD 12 billion to be implemented over the next 15 months: they will include agricultural and social protection assistance 'to help cushion the income effect' of rising food prices.

According to economists, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will also donate assistance to Sri Lanka 'with the full range of its instruments, focusing on macroeconomic data'.

A UN study of 600 companies, entitled 'Gender Disparities and Labour Market Challenges', reveals that between 2019 and 2020, women's employment in Sri Lanka fell by around 8%: in the tourism sector, the decline was 47%.

Meanwhile, the country has suspended payments to creditors, becoming the first in the Asia-Pacific region to go bankrupt in the last century. The new premier Ranil Wickremesinghe stated in Parliament last week that he was unaware of the actual debt figures and that the statistics had 'gone haywire'.